But the Children! And Other Crappy Memes

30 Mar

A Brooklyn Assemblyman writes in to the Buffalo News to explain to us semi-literate rubes why it’d be bad for Wegmans to sell wine. Like a fifth grader’s book report, he begins by establishing his themes: Won’t somebody think of the money?! Won’t somebody think of the children?!

The whole thing is merely an emotional re-working of the liquor store industry‘s own talking points.

When evaluating Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposal to legalize wine sales in 19,000 new outlets, including grocery stores, delis, gas stations and bodegas, I considered two factors: the impact on jobs and our economy, and the impact on our teenagers. The plan fails on both counts.

Some wine store owners say 40 percent of the stores will go out of business. Even if that number is twice as high as reality, that still means more than 2,200 people would be put out of work. That doesn’t make any sense, especially considering that grocery stores will not create a single new job just because they add a new product.

I am telling you that those numbers are the uninvestigated regurgitation of propaganda. The idea that liquor stores that sell wine would suddenly go out of business ignores the simple fact that they’d still retain their exclusive rights to sell hard liquor. There are a lot of very knowledgable wine shops in town that place a premium on education and service – something that wine sales at Tops simply won’t be able to match.

And think about this – Consumers’ Beverage sells beer and soda. Amazingly, beer and soda sales at convenience stores and supermarkets didn’t run them out of business.

No word yet on whether the bill would prevent Nutcracker sales to tweens and teens in local New York bodegas.

I would also fully expect the more upscale supermarkets to hire people to enable them to compete better with a Premier. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Wegmans and Whole Foods employ someone with a basic wine knowledge to help customers select wines to best go with the meals they’re going to prepare with the ingredients in their carts.

Proponents contend it will help upstate by bolstering New York State wineries, but that argument falls short. There are about 100 state wineries opposed to this legislation because it will hurt their industry, not help it. These small businesses make a limited amount of wine each year and could never sell to grocery stores simply because they don’t have enough supply.

Grocery stores look to buy in bulk, and will go for the discount wines so they can sell them quickly. That means cheap, imported wines will get shelf space, while New York wines will be left out. New York wineries count on the small wine retailers to reach customers, and will suffer a double insult as these stores go out of business and they find themselves shut out of grocery stores.

But don’t the big liquor stores buy in bulk? We’ve retarded the whole liquor store industry in New York to prevent the three local Premier outlets from even being part of the same company. All people want to do is grab a cab to go with their steak. The way I figure it, the more places sell wine, the more wine gets sold, the more attention is paid to New York wines, and the more New York wine gets sold.

The idea that expansion of wine sales would contract sales of New York wines is mind-bogglingly stupid.


A few winery owners, who did not wish to be named, said they felt pressured to support the liquor stores.

So, there’s that.

So from a jobs perspective, and economic development perspective, this plan doesn’t measure up. Any plan that reduces jobs and doesn’t deliver real economic growth is simply a non-starter.

Clearly, we also have an obligation to first “do no harm” as it relates to our teenagers. Our young people face enormous challenges today, much more than when I was growing up, and they need our help and support. Because this plan would make wine more accessible to teenagers, it must be rejected.

Wine is not a food and it is not beer. Wine has three to four times more alcohol in it than beer. And we know from a Columbia University study that teenage girls who have tried alcohol would rather drink wine than beer if given a choice. That’s a recipe for trouble.

The best thing to do would be to lower the drinking age back to 18 and eliminate the rebellion aspect of binge drinking. Part of the allure is that between the ages of 18 – 21, when most kids are of college age, they’re not legally allowed to drink. Can you name a single, solitary college student who was dissuaded from drinking beer because the law said you had to be 21? Let’s stop pretending that college kids don’t drink, and let them have it. If a college freshman was able to order a few pitchers with his friends on a weekend, so what? It’s the prohibition that leads to excess.

New York already spends $3.2 billion every year to deal with the impacts of underage drinking, from accidents and violence, to teen pregnancies and diseases. In fact, officials at the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services say that underage drinking is the No. 1 substance abuse problem in New York State today.

It is a hard truth that teens will have an easy time getting wine if it’s available in every deli, gas station, bodega and corner store, rather than limited to small, owner-operated wine and liquor stores. That is where it belongs and where it should stay.

We need to do more to protect our young people, and create jobs and opportunity for all New Yorkers. That’s why I oppose Paterson’s wine in grocery stores plan.

Premier is “small”? Give me a break. We should protect our young people by lowering the drinking age to 18, and basically do what we did when we let states raise speed limits – legalize behavior that was already happening with the overwhelming majority of the population. Furthermore,

Also, Assemblyman Abbate – Chairman of the Labor Committee – should probably disclose his campaign contributions from Anheiser-Busch, the NYS Beer Wholesalers’ Association, Phillip Morris, all of which harm the economy and drive kids to drink.

The address listed for the anti-wine-sales-in-supermarkets group is that of Mercury Public Affairs.

7 Responses to “But the Children! And Other Crappy Memes”

  1. Brian B at 9:56 am #

    Alcohol is a dangerous drug. I fail to see why we should even let beer in grocery stores.

  2. James at 10:49 am #

    Well Alan, I didn’t think I would say ever say this to one of your posts but I completely agree. I think that more business will mean more business and better business. Wine is experiencing a huge boost in popularity these days and I think that being able to buy it at Wegmans is only going to encourage me to stop by Hodge, Gates Circle, and especially Great Arrow Liquor stores when I want the real skinny on my wine. The real losers in this are the bars and restaurants, but lowering my glass price in a restaurant will only encourage me to imbibe more often…. so there’s that. Also, have we considered that the role of supply will also keep prices fairly balanced?

  3. Gabe at 6:04 pm #

    Wine in grocery stores means ones thing: Trader Joe’s in WNY!

    • Jon Splett at 6:43 pm #

      I went to Trader Joe’s for the first time in Ann Arbor on Friday and I don’t get the hype.

      It’s less pretentious than Whole Foods I guess and their knock-off Vitamin Water is pretty decent but why anyone with access to a Wegmans would bother to go there is beyond me.

  4. Eric Paine at 2:17 am #

    Most states in the nation adopted a minimum drinking age of 21 soon after federal passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which required states to maintain a minimum drinking age of 21. Under the Federal Aid Highway Act,  States were required to enforce the minimum drinking age of 18 in order to avoid a 10% reduction in federal highway funds. The original intention of the law was to reduce the incidents of alcohol-related accidents among people under 21. But since passage of this legislation, and the raising of the drinking age in many states, the percentage of people who drink between the ages of 18 to 20 has skyrocketed. Many say the prohibitions have actually encouraged secretive binge drinking, more dangerous behavior, and less educational programming targeting this age group. Respected law enforcement officials and university presidents have recently called for changes in the federal law to permit states to lower the drinking age.
    At age 18, people are legal adults. As much as their parents may think otherwise, they are no longer children. They have the right to vote and help choose the President of the United States. They can go to war to defend our country, and they can legally purchase guns and cigarettes. It is absolutely absurd that they cannot have a beer or glass of wine without fear of possible arrest and prosecution.
    It’s time for the nation to repeal these Prohibition-era laws and adopt a more intelligent, progressive, and educational approach to drinking among younger adults. These laws simply don’t work, they aren’t enforceable any longer, and if anything they are counterproductive. Literally millions of responsible young adults are already consuming alcohol and that’s not going to change. What we need to do is stop wasting the taxpayers money chasing, charging and prosecuting responsible young adults who want to have a beer, and start putting the money where it ought to be, in promoting smart education about responsible drinking, and in pursuing far more serious criminals, including those at all ages who drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
    — Eric PainePresident & FounderDrink At 18http://drinkat18.com


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